Puerto Rico vs Hawaii: Which Is A Better Vacation Destination? (2024)

Are you planning your next dream vacation and trying to decide between the lush, tropical paradise of Hawaii and the vibrant, culturally rich destination of Puerto Rico? 

Both of these stunning locations offer beautiful landscapes, sandy beaches, and unforgettable experiences, making it a tough choice for any traveler.

I’ve lived in Puerto Rico for 14 years so I can help you make an informed decision.

In this article, I will help you decide whether to vacation in Puerto Rico or Hawaii.

Is it better to go to Hawaii or Puerto Rico?
Is Puerto Rico as beautiful as Hawaii?
Is Puerto Rico less expensive than Hawaii?
Is Puerto Rico warmer than Hawaii?
Hawaii vs Puerto Rico safety – which is safer?
Hawaii vs Puerto Rico beaches – which has better beaches?
Which is better for families with kids?
Which has more fun and unique activities?
Other frequently asked questions


Is it better to go to Hawaii or Puerto Rico?

It ultimately depends on your preferences and priorities when deciding between Hawaii and Puerto Rico for your vacation. 

image of Na Pali Coast, Kauai
Na Pali Coast on the island of Kauai is a beautiful and rugged coastal area known for its towering cliffs, green valleys, and crystal-clear waters.

Hawaii is famous for its lush landscapes, breathtaking beaches, and unique Polynesian culture. 

It is an ideal destination for those who seek a tropical paradise with a touch of luxury, world-class surf spots, and opportunities to immerse themselves in the laid-back island lifestyle.

On the other hand, Puerto Rico offers a blend of Caribbean and Spanish influences, rich history, and vibrant culture. 

image of tropical summer view of Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico is a diverse cultural island destination that offers a unique blend of African, Taíno, and Spanish influences in its music, art, architecture, and cuisine.

Puerto Rico’s colorful architecture, lively music scene, and mouthwatering cuisine will captivate your senses. 

image of Plantain Lasagna
Plantain lasagna is a delicious and creative twist on the classic Italian dish, using layers of ripe plantains instead of pasta for a tasty and gluten-free option.

Suppose you’re looking for a more budget-friendly option with diverse experiences that cater to adventure seekers, history buffs, and beach lovers alike. 

In that case, Puerto Rico might be your better choice, offering an unforgettable vacation filled with discovery and enchantment.

Learn more about the island in our guide to the 45 Best Things To Do In Puerto Rico.


Is Puerto Rico as beautiful as Hawaii?

Puerto Rico is just as beautiful as Hawaii in its unique way.

image of Dorado Beach Puerto Rico
Dorado Beach, located on the northern coast of Puerto Rico, is a luxurious and picturesque resort destination known for its beautiful beaches, world-class golf courses, and rich history.

While both destinations boast stunning beaches and landscapes, Puerto Rico offers a distinctive mix of Caribbean and Spanish influences, evident in its colorful architecture, historic sites, and vibrant culture. 

image of traditional vibrant street in San Jua
The cobblestone streets of Old San Juan, Puerto Rico are a reminder of the city’s rich colonial history, with colorful buildings and forts dating back to the 16th century lining the narrow streets.

You’ll find picturesque cobblestone streets in Old San Juan, the majestic El Yunque Rainforest, and the enchanting Bioluminescent Bays, all of which contribute to the island’s captivating charm.

image of La Mina Falls
La Mina Falls, located in the El Yunque National Forest in Puerto Rico, is a stunning waterfall and is a must-see attraction for nature lovers.

However, Hawaii has a more laid-back Polynesian vibe with its dramatic volcanic landscapes, cascading waterfalls, and world-class surf spots. 

image of Wailua Waterfall
Wailua Waterfall, located on the eastern side of Kauai, is a picturesque and easily accessible waterfall that drops over 80 feet into a tranquil pool below.

The islands offer diverse experiences, from exploring the rich history and traditions at the Polynesian Cultural Center to hiking through the lush valleys of Kauai or witnessing the awe-inspiring power of nature at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. 

Ultimately, the beauty of each destination is in the eye of the beholder, and both Hawaii and Puerto Rico promise unforgettable experiences, stunning scenery, and a taste of paradise that will leave you longing for more.

If you want to explore nature, check out our 15 Best Outdoor Activities In Puerto Rico.


Is Puerto Rico less expensive than Hawaii?

In general, Puerto Rico is less expensive than Hawaii. 

Accommodation, dining, and activities are more budget-friendly in Puerto Rico, making it a more attractive option for travelers on a tighter budget. 

image of a large flag of Puerto Rico
Old San Juan is a place of immense Puerto Rican pride, with vibrant street art, live music, and colorful celebrations that showcase the island’s unique culture and heritage.

You’ll find various lodging options, from affordable guesthouses and vacation rentals to mid-range hotels catering to different price points. 

Dining in Puerto Rico also offers excellent value, with various delicious local dishes available at roadside kiosks, food trucks, and family-run restaurants, alongside more upscale dining experiences. 

image of Lechon or Suckling Pig
Lechon, a traditional Puerto Rican dish of slow-roasted whole pig, is a beloved culinary delicacy that is celebrated across the island for its crispy skin and tender meat.

In terms of activities, Puerto Rico presents an array of affordable options, such as exploring historic forts, hiking through the El Yunque Rainforest, or simply lounging on one of its beautiful beaches.

However, keep in mind that prices can vary depending on the specific area and time of year you visit, so it’s always a good idea to research and plan your trip accordingly. 

image of Isla Verde resort
Isla Verde Beach in Puerto Rico is a popular and stunningly beautiful beach destination with crystal-clear waters, golden sands, and a lively atmosphere that offers a range of water sports, restaurants, and nightlife options.

Like holidays and popular events, peak travel seasons may result in higher prices and limited availability. 

By being flexible with your travel dates and booking in advance, you can make the most of your vacation budget, regardless of your chosen destination.

Get more details about planning your vacation budget in our article How Much Does It Cost To Go To Puerto Rico On Vacation?


Is Puerto Rico warmer than Hawaii?

Puerto Rico and Hawaii enjoy a warm tropical climate year-round, making them ideal destinations for sun-seekers and beach lovers. 

Puerto Rico enjoys an overall slightly warmer climate than Hawaii year round.

However, Puerto Rico tends to be slightly warmer than Hawaii, with average temperatures ranging from 70°F to 85°F (21°C to 29°C). 

Hawaii’s temperatures usually range from 65°F to 82°F (18°C to 28°C). 

While the temperature difference is insignificant, Puerto Rico might be the better option if you prefer a slightly warmer destination.

It’s also worth noting that both destinations have their own microclimates, which can result in varying weather conditions depending on where you are on the islands. 

For instance, the northern coast may experience more rainfall in Puerto Rico, while the southern coast is typically drier.

image of Palm Trees
Check the rainfall averages for Puerto Rico and Hawaii before your trip. Factors depend on your location on either island and the time of year your visit.

Similarly, in Hawaii, the islands’ windward (eastern) side tends to be wetter, while the leeward (western) side is generally drier and sunnier.

When planning your trip, consider these climate variations and pack appropriate clothing and gear to ensure you’re prepared for any weather. 

Regardless of your destination, Puerto Rico and Hawaii offer warm, tropical experiences that will undoubtedly make for an unforgettable vacation.


Hawaii vs Puerto Rico safety – which is safer? 

When considering safety in Hawaii versus Puerto Rico, it’s essential to understand that both destinations have unique challenges and precautions. 

image of Police car
Both Hawaii and Puerto Rico have an active police presence in tourist areas.

Generally speaking, Hawaii and Puerto Rico are considered safe for tourists, but some differences are worth considering to help you make an informed decision.

As a U.S. state, Hawaii tends to have a lower crime rate than Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory. 

Tourist areas in Hawaii, such as Waikiki, Maui, and the Big Island, are generally safe, with well-developed infrastructure and a strong police presence. 

However, visitors should still exercise common sense and follow basic safety guidelines, such as avoiding isolated areas at night and securing valuables.

Below is a video of someone discussing how safe Hawaii is:

On the other hand, Puerto Rico experiences higher crime rates in certain areas, particularly in and around San Juan. 

Nevertheless, the island’s tourist areas, including Old San Juan, Condado, and Isla Verde, are generally safe and well-policed. 

Below is a video of someone talking about the safety of Puerto Rico:

As with Hawaii, exercising caution and following basic safety precautions, such as not displaying valuables and avoiding poorly lit areas at night, will help ensure a safe and enjoyable vacation.

Natural hazards are also a consideration in both destinations. 

In Hawaii, visitors should know about volcanic activity, strong currents, and rip tides at specific beaches. 

Puerto Rico, being in the Caribbean, is more susceptible to hurricanes, which usually occur between June and November.

In conclusion, while Hawaii is generally considered safer due to its lower crime rate, both destinations can be enjoyed safely if you take the necessary precautions and stay informed. 

Check out our guide to Safety In Puerto Rico for more.


Hawaii vs Puerto Rico beaches – which has better beaches?

Comparing the beaches of Hawaii and Puerto Rico is not an easy task, as both destinations offer stunning shorelines, each with its own unique charm and appeal. 

image of sandy beach in Hawaii, Kauai
The beaches in Hawaii are renowned for their beauty, featuring pristine turquoise waters, soft white sands, and stunning backdrops of verdant mountains or volcanic rock formations.

Your choice will depend on your personal preferences and the type of beach experience you’re seeking.

Hawaii is famous for its diverse and picturesque beaches, ranging from the iconic Waikiki Beach on Oahu to the dramatic black sand beaches of Punalu’u on the Big Island. 

image of Waikiki Beach
Waikiki Beach, located in the heart of Honolulu on the island of Oahu, is one of the most famous and iconic beaches in Hawaii.

The islands are known for their pristine white, black, and even green sand beaches, as well as world-class surf spots like the North Shore of Oahu and the renowned Jaws in Maui. 

Hawaii’s beaches are perfect for those seeking a luxurious, laid-back atmosphere and amazing snorkeling opportunities at spots like Hanauma Bay or Poipu Beach.

Puerto Rico, on the other hand, offers a mix of beaches that cater to a variety of interests. 

image of Tortuga Beach Culebrita
The ultra-secluded Tortuga Beach Culebrita, Puerto Rico.

The island is home to both bustling cities beaches, such as Condado and Isla Verde, and more secluded spots, like Flamenco Beach in Culebra, which is consistently ranked among the world’s most beautiful beaches for its turquoise waters and powdery white sand. 

For surfers, Rincon and Isabela offer some of the best waves in the Caribbean. 

image of surfers
Rincon, Puerto Rico is a world-class surfing destination with consistently excellent waves and a laid-back, surf-centric culture that attracts surfers from around the world.

The Bioluminescent Bay in Vieques is another unique attraction, where visitors can witness the magical glow of bioluminescent microorganisms in the water.

image of Bioluminescent Bay
Experience a one in a lifetime opportunity to visit the world’s brightest bioluminescent bay in Vieques, Puerto Rico.

Ultimately, the choice between Hawaii and Puerto Rico comes down to personal preference. 

Hawaii’s beaches are better suited for those seeking dramatic landscapes, a diverse range of sand colors, and world-class surfing, while Puerto Rico’s beaches cater to a broader range of interests, from bustling city beaches to secluded coves and world-class surf spots. 

Both destinations promise stunning shorelines and unforgettable beach experiences, so you can’t go wrong with either choice.

Learn more in our guide to the 30 Best Beaches In Puerto Rico.


Which is better for families with kids? 

Both Puerto Rico and Hawaii offer a variety of family-friendly activities and attractions. 

Hawaii is an excellent choice for families looking for outdoor adventures, such as hiking, snorkeling, and surfing. 

image of a lady hiker
Your kids will have an unforgettable experience hiking in Hawaii.

Hawaii’s unique Polynesian culture, educational attractions, and luxurious resorts make it a top pick for families seeking a memorable vacation experience.

Puerto Rico is also a fantastic destination for families, offering diverse activities, including exploring historical sites, hiking through the rainforest, and discovering beautiful beaches. 

image of lady hiker
Hike in El Yunque National Forest with your kids and discover waterfalls and a large variety of tropical plants.

The island’s cultural attractions and family-friendly festivals make it an attractive destination for kids and adults.

Ultimately, both destinations are well-suited for families with kids. 

Your choice will depend on your family’s interests and preferences. 

If you’re seeking an immersive cultural experience with a touch of adventure, Puerto Rico might be the better option. 

However, if your family prefers a more laid-back, luxurious vacation in a stunning tropical paradise, Hawaii might be the ideal choice.

Read more in our article featuring the 17 Best Things To Do In Puerto Rico With Kids.


Which has more fun and unique activities? 

Hawaii and Puerto Rico offer an array of fun and unique activities for visitors to enjoy. 

Hawaii is renowned for its outdoor adventures, such as hiking to volcanic craters like Kilauea and Haleakalā, snorkeling with exotic marine life at spots like Molokini Crater, and learning to surf on its world-famous waves at Waikiki or the North Shore. 

image of surfer riding a wave
Surfing in Hawaii is an integral part of the island’s culture and history, with world-famous breaks like the Banzai Pipeline and Waimea Bay attracting surfers from around the globe seeking some of the biggest and most challenging waves in the world.

The islands also provide opportunities to explore the rich Polynesian culture through luaus, hula dancing, and traditional Hawaiian cuisine, like poke bowls and Kalua pork.

Puerto Rico, on the other hand, boasts a diverse range of experiences that cater to various interests. 

History buffs can explore the island’s rich past by visiting the historic forts of El Morro and San Cristóbal and the charming cobblestone streets of Old San Juan. 

image of Castillo San Felipe del Morro
El Morro, a 16th-century citadel and UNESCO World Heritage Site located in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico, is a testament to the island’s rich colonial history and is one of the most iconic and recognizable landmarks in the Caribbean.

At the same time, nature lovers can venture into the lush El Yunque Rainforest, home to waterfalls and rare wildlife, or take a nighttime kayak trip through bioluminescent bays like Mosquito Bay in Vieques. 

image of waterfall
Puerto Rico is home to numerous breathtaking waterfalls, from the easily accessible and popular Cascada La Mina to the remote and spectacular Salto Curet in the central mountains.

The island’s vibrant culture comes to life through its lively festivals, such as the San Sebastián Street Festival and the Ponce Carnival, as well as its delicious cuisine, featuring dishes like mofongo and arroz con gandules. 

image of crowd of people
Old San Juan celebrates in a big way during January for the annual San Sebastian street festival.

The lively music scene in Puerto Rico, characterized by salsa, reggaeton, and bomba, is another highlight for visitors looking to immerse themselves in the local atmosphere.

In summary, Hawaii and Puerto Rico offer various activities that cater to different interests, from outdoor adventures to cultural experiences. 

The choice between the two will depend on the type of activities that resonate with you and the unique experiences you seek during your vacation.


FAQ section

Which is easier to get to from the United States?

Puerto Rico is generally easier to get to from the United States, thanks to its closer proximity and shorter flight times, especially from the East Coast.

Which is easier to get around?

The ease of getting around depends on your itinerary and preferences, but Puerto Rico's smaller size and reliable public transportation in San Juan make it a convenient option for many travelers.


Final thoughts

In conclusion, choosing between Puerto Rico and Hawaii as vacation destinations depends on your preferences and priorities. 

If you’re seeking a luxurious tropical paradise with breathtaking landscapes, unique Polynesian culture, and a laid-back vibe, Hawaii is a perfect choice. 

However, you’re seeking a more budget-friendly option with diverse experiences, rich history, vibrant culture, and Caribbean and Spanish influences. 

In that case, Puerto Rico is the ideal destination. Both locations have a unique charm; either choice will surely provide a memorable and enjoyable vacation experience.

Check out our Best Times To Visit Puerto Rico article to know when it’s the best time to vacation in Puerto Rico. 

Puerto Rico vs Hawaii: Which Is A Better Vacation Destination? (2024)
Article by

Miguel Concepcion

Writer at PuertoRico.com. I’ve lived in Puerto Rico for 14 years and have experienced every inch of this stunning island. Growing up in Puerto Rico has helped me truly learn about the rich culture and extensive history this island has to offer. I share my local knowledge in all of the articles that I write.

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